If you don’t know your dredging from your boule, or your blind baking from your bulk fermentation, it’s time to dive in feet first to the wonderful world of cooking and baking. In order to become a truly skilled creator of cakes, puddings, pies, sauces, desserts and much more, you need to get comfortable with the lingo.
For those who are just starting out it is appropriate to be guided by the following guidelines and principles. Start right by keeping these in mind. Likewise, practicing them puts one on the road to success in baking.
Be familiar with the kinds of flours and their specific uses. Cake flour is ideal for cakes, bread flour for practically all breads, and all-purpose flour for cookies and pastries. While substitution can be made in the absence of one type, it is always best to use the ideal type.
The frequency and intensity of mixing flour with other ingredients differ from each product. As a general rule, breads need thorough kneading for highly developed gluten. Cakes need just enough mixing for a well-blended batter, while pastries require a special technique in mixing such that some amount of gluten is developed but the dough retains its characteristics of flakiness and tenderness.
Ingredients combined in a product react differently at various temperatures. At higher temperature, sugar becomes soluble, fat spreads faster, and flour absorbs water rapidly. The degree of heat to which batters and doughs are subjected varies with the altitude above the sea level. The higher the elevation, the lower the temperature of boiling water, hence the need to adjust by increasing the temperature. Normally, the reduction is 2° F at 1000 ft elevation so that the baking temperature is increased accordingly to bake the product thoroughly.
The rate at which the boiling temperature inside the product is reached depends on the oven temperature, ingredients, size, and shapes of baking pans.
Baked products that are crisp or brittle require temperature higher than boiling piont, while those that are soft and spongy, like breads, cakes, or muffins, do not require above boiling point temperature.
When the oven temperature is too high, crust is formed too fast, limiting its expansion, thus producing a product that is cracked and lower in volume. However, when the oven temperature is too low, the product usually falls and does not rise in volume. Good quality product is a result of the right baking temperature.
To start right, check all ingredients (with their prescribed kinds and amount), baking procedure, tools, and equipment needed. Assemble all these within easy reach. Preheat your oven while working on your ingredients. Set the thermostat at the right temperature as prescribed in the recipe.
Do all preparation activities like measuring, sifting, greasing, peeling, paring, mashing, chopping, thawing, etc. before mixing.
Follow carefully the procedures and techniques in correct measurements for dry and liquid ingredients.
Use the right size of baking pan needed for the recipe. Using the correct pan gives your baked product a good size, good shape, and good contour. Baking pans with straight sides gives cake a very fine texture. It is advisable to use aluminum pans as they distribute heat evenly, resulting to a delicate golden brown crust.
Know how to execute properly the different processes involved in baking. Here are the most common processes:
- Beat – to make the mixture smooth using a hand or electric mixer.
- Blend – to combine thoroughly
- Caramelize – to melt sugar to a golden brown syrup
- Cream – to rub one or two ingredients with a wooden spoon or mixer until their light or fluffly
- Cut and Fold – combination of two motions: one that cuts vertically through the mixture, then turning it over by gliding the rubber scraper across the bottom of the bowl at each turn.
- Dredge – to lightly coat or sprinkle with flour, cornmeal, or sugar (e.g. dredge the grease pan with flour)
- Glaze – to coat with syrup that is cooked to the cracked stage
- Knead – to mix the dough with a pressing motion accompanied by folding and stretching
- Mash – to soften by pressing or mixing
- Preheat – to turn the oven at the required temperature before baking
- Scald – to heat below boiling point in a double broiler
- Sift – to pass through a filter
- Stir – to blend ingredients with a circular motion
- Whip – to beat rapidly with a hand or electric mixer in order to incorporate air
Storing Baked Products
Proper storage keeps your baked products as fresh as when they were first stored in the freezer or in the refrigerator. While freezing prevents staling of freshly baked products, it does not, however, refresh already products. Meaning, stale products remain stale when kept in the freezer. Nonetheless, the temperature of the freezer prevents the products from further staling.
Package your baked product properly
Wrap the product in film or foil, in moisture and vaporproof paper or plastics, or by using food vacuum in a sealed plastic containers . This is the best option for proper storage, however you need to know the best vacuum sealer that suits for you.
Do quick freezing
Products – whether baked, cooked, or uncooked – are stored by quick freezing. As soon as the product is placed in the freezer, the product’s temperature changes from room temperature to low temperature, allowing quick penetration of cold in the internal part of the product. The shift in temperature maintains the product’s freshness. As long as the storage temperature remains constant, the product will preserve its freshness for months.
Staling occurs faster in refrigerator than in a freezer because the temperature of the refrigerator (6°C – 8°C) is higher than the freezer (0°F – 16°C). Remember that the lower the temperature, the longer the product maintains its freshness.
Thaw right away
Thaw baked products as soon as you need them. After thawing, never put back the product in the freezer as bacteria multiplies rapidly upon reaching room temperature. In addition, moisture sets in once baked products are thawed resulting to limping or sogginess. You can thaw soft crusted baked product and hard crusted breads and rolls in the oven.
Rolls are stored in room temperature
Generally, all rolls are ideally stored at room temperature that is between 75–85°F. They should have sufficient space for storage to avoid crushing and losing their shapes.
Those that should remain their moisture
Soft crusted breads, rolls, and sweet rolls should remain in their moisture and vaporproof wrappers to avoid drying. On the other hand, hard crusted breads should be stored unwrapped to allow circulation of dry air. They have shorter shelf life compare to soft crusted breads. Both soft and hard crusted breads can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. If frozen, they can be thawed in the oven at 325°F for soft-crusted breads for 20 minutes and at 400°F for hard crusted breads for 5 minutes.
Cakes and pastries in their box
Cakes and pastries should be stored in their boxes to prevent drying at room temperature. Those with whipped cream and icings can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. They should be wrapped in their moisture and vaporproof containers or packages.
For other pastries
Doughnut cake types, fruit pies, gateaux, and petit fours should be stored in a cool place (although for longer shelf life, they can be stored in the fridge). Unbaked pies can be stored in the freezer.
Remember that a product is only as fresh as when you put it in the refrigerator or freezer. You also need to wrap the products properly before freezing. And always use moisture or vaporproof paper, film, or foil before storing the freezer.
More About Storing Cakes
The shelf life and the best method for storing cakes depend on its ingredients:
- Perishable ingredients like custard, whipped cream, buttercream, or frostings with raw milk or eggs should be refrigerated. Keep in cake keeper and refrigerate.
- Sponge cakes, pound cakes, fruit cakes, chiffon cakes, and coffee cakes will stay fresh at room temperature in a cake keeper or wrapped in plastic.
- Cakes with moist ingredients and fresh fruits lose their freshness quickly. Store in cake keeper or wrap in plastic or store in the refrigerator.
- Fried cakes should be consumed within the hour as they are not recommended for storage.
- It is best for cakes without frostings to be wrapped completely in vapor and moisture proof plastics and freeze them. Frostings should be frozen separately in a plastic container. Freezing keeps the cake fresh up to 3 months for as long as it is sealed completely in an airtight container or in an inner layer of wax paper and an outer layer of aluminum foil.
- If the cake is to be served, thaw at room temperature. Thawing takes about 2 to 6 hours depending on the size of the cake and room temperature. Thawing is faster if the cake is small and room temperature is high like during the summer months. It is slower if the size of the cake is big and room temperature is low during the cold months.
- If cakes are to be given as gifts, wrap first in a wax paper or vapor and moisture-proof plastic to keep them fresh, then wrap again in an organic paper or a gift wrap.